Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
We easily remember that October is the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, May the month dedicated to our Blessed Mother, June to the Sacred Heart. Monthly dedications don’t stop there. But for a number of recent years we have let slip such months as February.
Who or what is February dedicated to, you ask?
The answer comes at the beginning, on Feb. 2, when we see the Holy Family go to the temple for the Presentation of Jesus. The family is together. The Holy Family. There’s the answer. February is traditionally dedicated in the Church to the Holy Family. This month-dedication traces back to the 17th century.
But how much do we remember or hear that today? This February we should restore that devotion. It would both honor the Holy Family and at the same time becomes a reminder to strengthen family life. After all, the Church has taught how the Holy Family is the model, the example, for all families. So said St. John Paul II in a 2001 Angelus, as he called “the family of Nazareth a model for every home.”
These are perfect reasons to start honoring the Holy Family this month.
“The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families,” John Paul II said earlier in his Letter to Families. He stressed, “The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family.” In fact, the saintly pope made it plain that he was trying “to show how the family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love.”
Don’t we need to honor and imitate the Holy Family in today’s culture and society which attacks families in so many ways? We know why, too. Back in 1981 Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra who was commissioned to establish John Paul II’s Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. In 2008 he revealed the dire warning she gave him in that letter which turned out true as proven by the events we have seen rapidly unfolding in the world.
Lucia wrote, “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about Marriage and the Family. Don't be afraid…because whoever works for the sanctity of Marriage and the Family will always be fought against and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.”
She ended saying, “nevertheless, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”
We’re in the final battle which has now escalated to include gender identity. Shouldn’t we heed Jesus’ warning about being on the wide road where “the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many”?
To get off that track let’s look at a couple of thoughts on families in regards holy families, and then some ways to honor the Holy Family this month.
St. John Paul II saw what was coming for the family and society.
In 1981 in Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), he noted the times were “a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it.” He lists the attacks which we see now unfolding in full force.
He kept reminding of these attacks, as in his Angelus on Holy Family Sunday in 2000, concluding, “All this shows how urgent it is to rediscover the value of the family and to help it in every way to be, as God wanted it, the vital environment where every child who comes into the world is welcomed with tenderness and gratitude from the moment of his conception; a place marked by a serene atmosphere that encourages the harmonious human and spiritual development of all its members.”
Again in Familiaris Consortio he stressed “the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family.” Why? Because as he in an earlier homily said, “The mission of being the primary vital cell of society has been given to the family by God himself."
But society’s direction has causes big problems. John Paul II spelled out the roots frequently includes “a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation… for one's own selfish well-being.”
Can you in your wildest imagination think any member of the Holy Family was ever selfish? Of course not. Imitating the Holy Family in this regard is one good place to start honoring them this month.
Honoring and Imitating
“To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own…” John Paul II stressed again in Letter to Families.
Jesus, who is the Lord, spent most of his life “in the obscurity of Nazareth” being obedient to his Mother Mary and his foster father Joseph. Isn’t that a big hint for children to be obedient to the parents? In Luke 2, we’re told the Holy Family went “each year” to the temple for the feast of Passover. We’re also told Jesus was “obedient” to his mother and father. Good examples to follow. Children should be obedient to their parents. All of us, adults as well of course, should be obedient to the commandments as was the Holy Family. And observant in our faith as was the Holy Family. Honor and imitate the Holy Family by modeling our families and ourselves after them. That way we will build our families into holy families.
That leads us to something else for which the Holy Family must be honored. John Paul II gives the details in Familiaris Consortio. He explained:
“Through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families — indeed, all the families in the world — to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.”
There we have a list of ways we can imitate the Holy Family at the same time we honor them.
Remember, too, that the Holy Family was the first domestic church. Again the saintly pope reminded that “the Fathers of the Church, in the Christian tradition, have spoken of the family as a ‘domestic church’, a ‘little church.’”
We should call upon the Blessed Mother that through her heavenly aid “may each Christian family really become a ‘little Church’ in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life.”
As a domestic church, obviously the Holy Family prayed together. We can imitate them by praying together as a family. Husbands and wives together. Fathers, mothers, and children together. How about praying a Rosary during February, to start, in thanksgiving and honor of the Holy Family? Pray especially the Joyful Mysteries which includes the Holy Family from start to finish.
Don’t forget “one area in which the family has an irreplaceable role is that of religious education, which enables the family to grow as a ‘domestic church,’” reminded the Holy Father.
Build Holy Families Again
On his visit to America in 2015, Pope Francis told the bishops, including himself, that in the face of people’s temptations not to lay a foundation of marriage and not to have a family, they must “rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond ever more fully to the blessing of God which they are!” And to invest their energies “in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.”
Honoring the Holy Family throughout February — and continuing beyond the month — and beginning to imitate them in our own families, we will, as John Paul II told us in his Letter to Families, “come to appreciate the grandeur of the goods of marriage, family and life; so that [we] will come to appreciate the great danger which follows when these realities are not respected, or when the supreme values which lie at the foundation of the family and of human dignity are disregarded.”
Let’s choose the first part, honor the Holy Family, imitate them, and consecrate our families to the Holy Family.
Here is one form of Consecration:
AN ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY FAMILY
“O Jesus, our most loving Savior! Thou Who was sent down from Heaven to enlighten the world by Thy teaching and example, and Who didst will to pass the greater part of Thy holy life in Nazareth, subject to Mary and Joseph, and thereby didst hallow the household which was to be the pattern for all Christian families, do Thou in Thy goodness receive our household which this day consecrates itself to Thee. Protect and guard us, strengthen us in Thy holy fear, establish in our hearts the peace and concord of Christian Charity, so that each one of us becoming like the Divine model of Thy family, may be sharers of eternal joy.”
“O Mary, most loving Mother of Jesus Christ, our Mother, through thy love and mercy intercede, that Jesus receives this act of Consecration, and pour out upon us His graces and blessings.”
“O Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, help us by thy prayers in all our necessities, both of body and soul; that together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and thyself we shall praise and thank Jesus Christ, our Divine Redeemer.”